Russell William Stover – 1996 Inductee

Many Osborne County natives have left the county and gone on to fame and fortune in several fields.  The story of confectioner Russell William Stover began on the Kansas prairie south of Alton in 1886.  His parents, John and Emma Stover, bought the northeast quarter of Section 28 in Mount Ayr Township of Osborne County and moved into a sod house.

Two Stover children were born during the family’s stay in Kansas.  Jeremiah was born in December 1886, but died the following July and lies buried in Osborne County’s Pleasant Plain Cemetery, and younger brother Russell was born May 6, 1888.

Russell was only a year and a half old when his father grew discouraged with their Osborne County homestead and decided to take the family back to Iowa.  In Iowa Stover attended country school and the Iowa City Academy.  After one year of pharmacy study at the University of Iowa he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and went to work for the American Tobacco Company.

On June 17, 1911, he married Clara Lewis.  Their wedding present was a 580-acre farm in Saskatchewan Province, Canada.  A year on the farm taught Stover that he would never be a farmer.  He sold the farm and over the next nine years the Stovers lived in Winnipeg, Canada; Chicago; and Des Moines, Iowa.  They attempted twice to start their own candy-making business but failed.

In 1921 Russell Stover was head of candy operations for the Graham Ice Cream Company when he formed a partnership with Chris Nelson to market Nelson’s invention, the Eskimo Pie – the original ice cream bar.  Sales over the next two years exceeded six million dollars.  But in 1923 Stover sold his share in the phenomenon for only thirty thousand dollars.  The Eskimo Pie was, unfortunately, easily dupli­cated and all the profit had been lost in lawsuits against il­legal competitors.

1923 also saw the Stovers moved to Denver, Colorado, where they once again attempted to start their own candy-making business.  This time the company was a success.  “Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies” grew quickly into five outlets in the Denver area.  In 1943 the company moved its headquarters to Kansas City, Missouri, and changed its name to “Russell Stover Candies.”  Today Russell Stover Candies remains the largest producer of fine-boxed chocolates in the United States, with retail shops in all fifty states and Canada.

In addition to overseeing his company, Russell Stover was involved in numerous civic and national organizations.  In 1946 the confectioner industry voted him their Candy Kettle Award for lifetime achievement.  Stover passed away suddenly in Miami, Florida, on May 11, 1954, at the age of sixty-eight.

Russell’s wife, Clara, published his biography, The Life of Russell Stover: An American Success Story, in 1957.   She sold the company in 1960.  Upon Clara’s death on January 9, 1975 she was interred with her husband Russell in the Mount Moriah Cemetery at Kansas City, Missouri.

Clara Stover
The graves of Clara and Russell Stover at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.
Advertisements

Charles Hamlin Ruth and William Penn Ruth – 1997 Inductees

Charles Hamlin Ruth
William Penn Ruth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a pair of homegrown Osborne County boys who honed their natural talents and developed separate inventions that brought them lasting fame and recognition.  Charles Hamlin and William Penn Ruth were two of the five sons of Richard and Sarah (Folk) Ruth, who were members of the Pennsylvania Colony that founded the town of Osborne, Kansas, on May 1, 1871.  Sarah was pregnant at the time with Charles, who was born November 24, 1871, on the family homestead in Penn Township.  William, known as Bill, was born there February 27, 1873.  Both worked on the family homestead a mile northeast of Osborne and attended the local schools.  Together with their older brother Richard Ruth, Jr., they learned blacksmithing and in 1889 Richard and Bill opened a blacksmith shop in Downs, Kansas, while Charles continued to farm.  By 1894 Bill was operating the blacksmith and machine shop alone.  With too much business for one man to handle he got his brother Charles to help him out, and soon made Charles a full partner.  On December 12, 1895, Bill married Effie Melissa Porter in Downs.  Together they raised four children–Pearl, Ralph, Clarence, and Francis.  Over the next seven years the Ruth brothers operated the prosperous shop and in their rare spare time worked on various ideas of their own.

William Penn Ruth’s shop building in Downs, Kansas.

“[The] Ruth Brothers, the blacksmiths and machinists, have completed the striking machine which they have been working on for some time.  It is quite a wonderful invention and displays rare mechanical skill and genius on the part of these two fine mechanics.  It is operated by steam; when in motion the wheels revolve one hundred times per minute, making the hammers strike two hundred powerful blows.” — Osborne County Farmer, March 3, 1898.

On May 22, 1901, Charles traveled to Glen Elder, Kansas, where he entered into marriage with Grace Dorothy Robb.  Her father, the Reverend Elijah P. Robb, performed the ceremony.  They had four children–Harold, Florence, Charles, and Ellen.  A year after the marriage the Ruth brothers sold the shop to Fred Reich and his father-in-law, John Pottberg.  William went to work for them building machinery and Charles decided that it was time to head for greener pastures.  By 1903 he had settled his family in Brawley, Imperial County, California.  He bought forty acres and farmed for a year at first and was later involved in teaming before returning to blacksmithing.

 

Blacksmith Shop Busy Again

“C. H. Ruth has secured the blacksmith shop of Jake Gardner.  Mr. Ruth is an experienced blacksmith of many years standing and an expert horseshoer.  All work in his line will be attended to promptly, and a good job done.” — Brawley News, October 6, 1905.

“One of the landmarks of Brawley is Ruth’s blacksmith shop on 5th street, and its proprietor has well earned a place in the ranks of the pioneer builders of Imperial County and as a steadfast, earnest worker along material lines.  . . . his present shop . . . has since been the headquarters and main reliance of the rancher and everyone else in the section for everything in general blacksmithing, horseshoeing, wagon repairing, wood and iron work of all kinds and auto repairing.” — Osborne County News, January 20, 1911.

Imperial County, California, is the greatest continuously irrigated area in the United Sates, relying on water from the Colorado River.  The water is brought to the fields through concrete irrigation canals.  However, in the early 1900s the canals were mere ditches.  A machine was needed to dig and clean the ditches, so Charles created and patented the Ruth dredger.  The tri-wheeled dredger was pulled along a canal by a cable which was attached to a post.  An engine wound the cable around a cylinder. The rear wheel nearest the canal actually telescoped across the canal while buckets at the rear of the dredger moved in a continuous loop to remove dirt and plants from the ditch.

The dredger had a problem at first; as the cable was wound on the cylinder, the dredge began to move faster as the cylinder’s diameter became greater.  But the dredger needed to move at a constant speed, and as Charles needed help with this problem he asked his older brother Richard to come to Brawley.  So Richard and his family moved to California and between the two brothers the desired constant speed was finally achieved by adding a system of gears so that the operator could shift gears as a change in speed occurred.

“In the face of existing conditions and in competition with all other methods and machines in use, the Ruth dredger made its advent in Imperial County . . . This machine combines economy, efficiency and durability of construction not equaled by any other make of dredger.  Eighteen of the Ruth dredgers are operating in the Imperial Valley alone.  Mr. Ruth has received testimonials from the most practical and eminent irrigation men as well as prominent engineers in various parts of the country.  The first Ruth dredger, put out in 1908, is in good condition today, and has been in use almost constantly, and much of the time it has operated night and day.” — E. C. Frear, History of Imperial County (1918).

Patented in 1910, the Ruth Dredger fleet operated throughout California and the southwestern United States for many years and netted Charles a comfortable income.  Meanwhile, Bill continued working in Downs, first for Reich and Pottberg, then under Henry Drager for a few months.  Then between 1904 and 1918 he started and sold three different blacksmith and machine shops.  After three years as a traveling salesman for the George C. Richardson Machinery Company Bill opened a blacksmith and automobile garage in Downs which he operated until his death.  His three sons assisted him in the shop and later became mechanics in turn.  Bill continued to tinker with new ideas for inventions and in 1937 he patented the first panic bar, a garage door latch that opened garage doors from the inside.  The panic bar is now by law a basic component on the doors of all public buildings.  But Bill never made a cent off of the patent.

“Grandpa was always crippled as I remember, using a crutch and cane.  As of now I can not remember the source of his disability.  However, I do know that this led to his most important invention.  His garage was very small for his car and he developed what is now known as the panic bar latch so he could just back his car against the door and it would open.  This saved him from squeezing around behind the car to open the door.  The Ruth descendants would all be millionaires now as these latches are required on all public buildings as a fire safety regulation.  I think the big companies waited for his patent to run out so they could steal it from Grandpa.” — Donald Hettinger, grandson of William Penn Ruth.

Charles Ruth lived in Brawley for many years before he moved to Los Angeles, California.  He died there May 16, 1951, and was buried in the Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.  Bill Ruth passed away September 2, 1954, in Downs and was laid to rest in the Downs Cemetery.  Both of their most famous inventions have been preserved in recognition of the talents of these Osborne County natives.  In 1989 Bill’s panic bar latch and patent papers were given by his descendants to the Kansas State Historical Society.  In 1997 a special exhibit entitled Moments of Glory opened at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, Kansas, which honored the achievements of famous and not-so-famous Kansans; featured in the exhibit was Bill Ruth and his panic bar latch.  And on the grounds of the Pioneers’ Park Museum in Imperial, California, can be found one of the original Ruth dredgers built by Charles Ruth, a testament to American adaptation and ingenuity.

One of the original Ruth dredgers can still be seen on the grounds of the Pioneers’ Park Museum in Imperial, California.

Benjamin Perry and Frank Irwin Remy (1997 Inductee)

We’ve all heard how doing well in school and possession of a hard work ethic will get one ahead in life.  If you ever doubted it, then the tale of the Remy Brothers will restore your belief.  Theirs is the classic American business success story and should serve as an inspiration to those who receive their education in Osborne County schools, past, present and future.

Benjamin Milton Remy and his wife, Marion (Irwin) Remy, were Indiana natives who after their marriage settled in Columbus, Indiana.  There they became the proud parents of two sons:  Benjamin Perry Remy, better known as Perry, who was born March 15, 1876; and Frank Irwin Remy, who was born September 6, 1880.  Shortly after Frank’s birth the family thought to try their fortune in the West and so gathered their belongings and moved to Downs, Kansas.  Downs was then a village founded by the Central Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad two years before, and Mr. Remy found work with various businessmen and the railroad.  He also served for a time as police judge.  When they came of age the sons entered the local school, and the family prospered.

In 1888 Mr. Remy was elected Osborne County Probate Judge and the family moved to the county seat of Osborne.  The boys resumed their education there and the family became respected members of the community.  Mr. Remy served a single two-year term before stepping down; his health broke soon after and he was unable to work.  After five years of financial hardship the family decided to move back to Columbus, Indiana, and then onto Peru, Indiana.  Perry Remy had been attending Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he majored in electrical engineering and had established a small electroplating business with F. L. Clifford since 1892, but he was obliged to quit school and go to work in a ceramic factory in Peru to help the family out.  Fourteen-year old Frank also worked in a factory and went to night school to complete his education.  The boys quickly saw that this precarious life was not helping their family and resolved to leave Peru for a better location.

The Remy family left Peru in late spring of 1895.  With little money they arrived in Anderson, Indiana, and decided the city had all the advantages they desired.  Perry had continued his electrical studies and noted that the business of wiring residential and commercial buildings might be an area to make money in.

“Upon arriving in Anderson, the boys, with typical youthful brashness, proceeded immediately to hang out their shingle as wiring contractors.  They proved surprisingly proficient in spite of their lack of years and proceeded to get all of the business they could handle.  The younger brother enrolled in the Anderson public schools and joined his older brother in the business activity each evening.” — Linfield Myers, in his book As I Recall . . . . (1973).

The first Remy Brothers shop in Anderson, Indiana.

The Remys’ road to success was assured when they developed a high tension magneto that proved to be one of the major selling points of the 1905 Buick.  Their business began to boom and they built a new plant in Anderson.  The company supplied parts to early automobile manufacturers such as Columbia, Winton, Sterns, Hayes, Apperson, and Severns-Duryea.  People in Osborne County took great interest in the career of these two young men.  Letters back to friends in Osborne and Downs describing the growing business were published in the local papers.  Even a 1906 car accident involving Frank Remy made headlines.

On August 5, 1907, Frank Remy married Nellie Forkner in Anderson.  The Remy Electrical Company remained prosperous and the Remy family grew comfortable in their role as one of the leading families in Anderson.  Then the ignition market changed to battery ignitions and the Remys rushed to invent their own ignition system in order to compete.  This, coupled with an offer to buy their company, convinced the brothers that it was time to get out of the automotive business.  On January 25, 1911, the sale of the Remy Electric Company was finalized for one million dollars.  Perry Remy was thirty-four years old; his brother Frank, thirty.

The Remy magneto.

“. . . The details of the agreement are not given out, but it is said that in addition to the purchase price of a million dollars the Remy boys also get a royalty on all magnetos made under their most recent patent, which makes the magneto to also furnish electric lights for the headlights and other lights about an automobile.  The sale of the plant makes both the Remy boys practically millionaires.  They are probably the two youngest self made millionaires in Indiana and possibly in the west . . . The sale price of their plant and business is only about half their fortune.  Their combined accumulations last year went beyond $500,000, and their combined fortune outside the plant and business had reached close to a million dollars.

The firm’s tremendous success has been built up on the genius of B. P. Remy, whose achievement in the electrical field entitle him to one of the first places among inventors.  It has also been helped vastly by the business sagacity and enterprise of Frank Remy.  Perry invented and designed the magneto with all its improvements, and in addition designed and directed one of the most efficient factory organizations ever gotten together.  In this second as well as in the first line named he has few equals and no superior in the country.  Frank had complete charge of the office and sales end and his contribution to the firm’s success was perhaps quite as considerable.  The business organization he built up in a brief time and its efficiency has been rarely equaled . . . .” — Osborne County Farmer, February 9, 1911.

The brothers then took a two-year vacation to Europe, where they also studied potential markets for an idea they wished to launch once they returned to America.  In 1913 they opened a new factory in Anderson for the manufacture of farm tractors.  While Perry occasionally made other inventions the brothers never again entered the business field with the zest they showed in their youth and both soon retired altogether.

Perry Remy made his home in Indianapolis, Indiana, and worked with the various disciplines within the Masonic Lodge.  He died of a heart attack on February 27, 1934, at Manning, South Carolina, and was buried in the West Maplewood Cemetery in Anderson.  In 1941 a gift in his memory was made to Purdue University of a small electric generator he had built while a student there in the 1890s.  Frank Remy left the tractor business in 1924 and concentrated his efforts into improving the Wawasee Lake Golf Course at Syracuse, Indiana, which he founded in 1912.  He owned homes both on the lake and in Indianapolis, and was a member of the Columbia Club and the Masonic Lodge.  He attended the Methodist Church and presented annually the Remy Brassard Cup at the Indianapolis 500 auto race.  Frank was divorced in 1933 and later married Louise Mauzy.  He sold the golf course in 1950 and entered full retirement, passing away April 1, 1962, at Warsaw, Indiana.  He was also buried in Anderson’s West Maplewood Cemetery.

The Remy Electric Company later became a division of the United Automobile Company, which was in turn  purchased by the newly-organized General Motors Corporation.  Under the new corporation the Remy Electric Company was merged with Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company, known popularly as Delco, to form the Delco-Remy Division, a name that became famous world-wide in the electrical field.

“While growth and advancement of Delco-Remy Division to its position of world leadership has resulted from the efforts of many persons, in a sense the industry stands as a tribute to Frank and Perry Remy.  Their lives represent a symbol of success and inspiration to everyone desiring to live in the freedom and enterprise as it is known in the United States.” — Anderson News Bulletin, April 3, 1962.

Delco Remy became its own business entity in 1994, when a group of private investors led by former Chrysler President Harold K. Sperlich and Delco Remy Executive Thomas J. Snyder bought portions of the General Motors heavy duty and automotive divisions.  In 2004 the company changed its name to Remy International, Inc.  Remy is currently the leading global manufacturer and remanufacturer of automotive parts, including starters, alternators and hybrid motors.  The company has thousands of employees worldwide with global facilities in eleven countries on four continents.

The current logo of Remy International, Inc.
The Remy Electric Company State Historical Marker in downtown Anderson, Indiana.

August Henry Krueger – 1996 Inductee

     Inventor, author, and entrepreneur August Henry Krueger  was born on May 6, 1886, on a farm near Beattie in Marshall County, Kansas, to his immigrant parents, August and Augusta (Wolf) Krueger.  In 1894 the family moved to Laton, Kansas, in Rooks County where August attended school.

On October 7, 1908, August married Sarah Norris in Mount Ayr Township, Osborne County, Kansas.  That same year he purchased the Laton General Store from Rudolph Krueger.  In 1912 this young, business oriented couple sold the Laton store and moved to Natoma, where they built and operated a new store.  After selling in Natoma for two years, August moved to Luray where he purchased and managed the Krueger Grocery and General Merchandise Store.  He did not, however, limit his endeavors to selling general merchandise.  Along with this store he operated the Krueger Ford Motor Company and the Krueger Manufacturing.

August had an inventive nature.  In his spare time, he created and built several items including the following: a header hitch, a power take-off and belt pulley, and luggage carriers to fit on the running boards of contemporary makes of cars.  A favorite family anecdote concerns the workable fluid drive for cars that he developed.  He was one to advertise his products in unique ways and he demonstrated the workable fluid drive by driving his car up the steps of the state capitol building in Topeka.  Later during World War II he invented and manufactured the Krueger Grain Blowers from a factory in Natoma.  He also manufactured the Krueger lawn mower.

August’s primary interest centered around one of the nation’s newest industries – oil.  The Kruegers, along with J. A. Vickers of Wichita who provided them with “bottom hole money” in exchange for one half interest, spudded a well in Rooks County, Kansas, on July 4, 1926.  The well was eventually completed as a producer a full year after it was begun.  This wildcat was the first producer in Rooks County and is still often called the Rooks County Number #1, and sparked an oil boom that eventually spread to other counties in central and northwest Kansas.  To date, about thirteen million barrels of oil have been pumped from the Laton field.

With the advent of the Great Depression and the subsequent tumbling prices of virtually every commodity including oil, the Kruegers toured and studied several “topping plants” before designing and building their own near their well.  This was the first independent oil refinery built in the state of Kansas.  For several years, until a pipeline was laid in 1940 from Krueger’s wells to a new refinery at Phillipsburg, Kansas, the Natoma oilman sold tractor fuel and gasoline from his makeshift operation in the tiny community of Laton, on the eastern side of Rooks County near the Osborne County line.  Farmers called the fuel “Krueger’s juice.”

The Laton refinery is part of the history of a family oil company that started seventy years ago and involved three generations of Krueger—August, his son Harold, and Harold’s six children.  The business, the oldest independent oil company in the area, was dissolved on January 1, 1997 after the company lost leases on or plugged all but 19 wells.  At its peak, Krueger Oil had 100 wells pumping in Russell, Ellis and Rooks counties.

August’s life was full and complete in many ways; he passed on his love of the oilfield to three sons – Harold, Lester, and August Henry, Jr.  He thrived on new gambles and ventures, and knew the satisfaction of conceiving dreams and seeing them through.  He was the genesis for a new industry in the area, for many, many descendants, and for a company that long bore their name and attested to their adventures – and that faithful first well continues pumping to this day.  August H. Krueger died on June 15, 1948, and is buried in the Natoma Cemetery.

Frank Newell Hatch – 2001 Inductee

The son of Dennis and Olive Hatch, Frank Newell Hatch was born in Sanford, Maine, on June 25, 1845.  At age 16 he volunteered for the Civil War as a private in Company A of the 5th Maine Infantry.  After two years of action pneumonia forced him to take a medical discharge and return to working at his father’s blacksmith shop in Maine.

In 1867 a desire to see the West caused him to move to Waterloo, Iowa.  There he married Miss Emmagene Rice on July 26, 1868.  The couple went on to raise five children.

In 1872 the family began a journey to California.  They stopped for a year in Blue Rapids, Kansas, and the following year intended to do the same in Osborne.  But when the townsfolk found out that Frank was a blacksmith they begged him to stay a while longer.

So over the next 18 years Hatch went into business with a drive and vigor that was impressive even then in the rapidly-growing frontier town.  He cut and dressed the limestone and erected four of the most imposing structures in Osborne up to that time – an eight-sided stone flour mill, then located where the Sunflower Hotel now stands in 2012; a two-story stone building to house his blacksmith shop; another two-story stone building for the hardware store he operated with his partner, Emanuel Smith, and a three-story stone building next to those, which served as the location for two other businesses and as the Hatch family home.

By 1883 Hatch had rebuilt the two 2-story buildings, combining them into one structure, and made the second floor into the Osborne Opera House.  In between the traveling companies that entertained at the Opera House the second floor was used as a roller skating rink.

Hatch’s first invention of note was an improvement on the popular Grasshopper plow.  Used specifically for the plowing of virgin sod for houses, his plow would cut the ground 3 inches deep by a foot wide.  Frank sold a large number of these during the 1870s and 1880s.

His second invention of note made him even more popular and gave him an indelible footmark inKansashistory.  In the summer of 1887 he glanced around his blacksmith shop and taking a small vapor engine, a flatbed wagon, some parts of a still, and other items, created the first self-propelled vehicle ever built in Kansas.

“In 1887 there lived in Osborne a man by the name of Frank Hatch, a genius of the first water, and among his inventions was the automobile, as every Osborneite can inform you . . . He ran it through the streets of Osborne and also made several excursions into the country.  I don’t see any use of letting some Frenchman with a name like a Chinese puzzle have the honor of inventing this machine when it belongs to the short grass country out in Western Kansas.” – Charlie Scott, writing to the newspaper the Concordia Kansan in April 1900.

“The steam wagon so successfully manufactured and run by Frank Hatch still draws it’s fair share of attention when he chooses to sail around the streets without a team.  The steering gear is peculiarly simple and effective, Frank being able to run the engine and guide the chariot without overexerting himself in the least.” – Osborne County Farmer,June 2, 1887.

The first self-driving vehicle ever built in Kansas, by Frank Hatch, seen standing on the vehicle second from left. It “terrorized” the streets of Osborne in the summer of 1887.

In 1891 Frank made his third invention when, on a dare, he and two assistants cast their own cannon.  It was used at celebrations in Osborne until 1901 and then was given to the courthouse museum.  In 1910 the cannon disappeared from the courthouse and was rumored to be residing in a barn in Russell County.

In 1901 Frank at last moved his family to the West Coast, settling in Washington State.  There he ran a lumber mill and two shingle mills.  Frank died on March 14, 1906 at Fir, Washington, and was buried in the Anderson Cemetery at East Stanwood, Snohomish County, Washington.

A blacksmith, a stonemason, a miller, a lumberman, and an inventor, Frank Newell Hatch is a striking example of the self-reliant frontier settler of 19th Century America.

Elbert Jacob Guyer – 2002 Inductee

Elbert Guyer doing farmwork on the family homestead in Osborne County, Kansas.

Farmer/inventor/businessman Elbert Jacob Guyer was born October 24, 1914 to William and Maude (Ruthi) Guyer on the family homestead in Kill Creek Township of Osborne County.

At the 2002 Osborne County Hall of Fame Banquet Elbert’s grandson, John Trenton Guyer, gave the following induction speech on the life of his grandfather:

“I’m John Trenton Guyer, Elbert Guyer’s grandson . . . .

In 1875, Elbert’s Grandfather, John W. Guyer homesteaded in a typical sod house along the banks of Kill Creek Township after having walked through a dozen states as a Civil War Union soldier. He had originally come from Switzerland settling in Wisconsin and then Kill Creek.

Elbert, my grandfather, started out in Osborne County, where he grew up on that same farm his grandfather homesteaded. On clear, cold, early winter mornings, while performing the family chores, he often heard the train whistle of the coal fired steam engine run through Bloomington. He never imagined he would see much of the world and the far-off distances the train was headed. He drove a Model A Ford, 11 miles to High School on the dirt roads through mud, snow and ice. The driving experience in those conditions served him well as he later drove throughout all 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces. He accumulated over several million miles hauling or towing products on two-lane highways and roads, oftentimes sleeping in the pickup truck cab.

He also journeyed throughout all the continents of the world except Antarctica and circled the world eight times while experiencing government coups, hazardous airline flights and cultural obstacles. Throughout the years, he always came back to Osborne County to visit family and friends and the ranchland he still owns here.

Elbert and Marval Guyer

Elbert came through the hardship of the dust bowl days. After high school, with no finances to further his education, he ventured into farming to support his family. This led to custom harvesting, which evolved into manufacturing. Being a custom harvester in the grain fields between Texas and North Dakota required healthy self-sufficiency and guidance from God. Elbert reportedly made a public prayer for the crew’s safety before each journey. He and his crew of 10 men spent many nights in their bedrolls under the stars, along with four combines loaded on four grain trucks. Elbert depended on his ingenuity and self-sufficiency along with a portable workshop that also traveled with the crew. It was stocked with a welder, cutting torch, air compressor, parts stock and tools of the day. He could design and build tools not available anywhere else. This eliminated down-time and waiting on parts or making trips for supplies increasing production many times over. This capability was a step towards manufacturing and testing grounds for later products.

One such product was a Milo guard; a combine attachment that prevented Sorghum Heads from being knocked to the ground before the grain could make it into the combine’s storage bin. It was effective and comparatively easy to install and uninstall. It became so popular that piecework was contracted through various points in the county. The Milo guard was followed by other products such as round bottom feed bunks, soft drink cases, partition repair kits, playground equipment and another sign of the time: TV towers. At least one tower still stands in Alton.

Elbert invented the recirculating batch dryer and experimented with the development of it while custom harvesting. The grain dryer became very popular for “on-the-farm” drying and eventually found its place on farms and elevators in 54 countries around the world. But before it could be produced, growing pains required expansion. Families were beginning to introduce television into their homes. Whenever Elbert’s spot welder was engaged, the TV reception up and down the creek would fade and recover from the power surge. Downed phone lines that occurred from the oversized harvesting equipment passing through, plus the party telephone lines busy with business calls meant this expansion required a move. The family said good-bye to Osborne County, and eventually expanded into manufacturing in Moundridge, Kansas.

Today the company called Moridge Manufacturing, Incorporated, produces 33 models of the Grasshopper zero-turn mowers, which was introduced in 1970. Elbert credits the company’s engineering staff for developing the basic mower concept and shaping a product that has been a centerpiece of the commercial mowing industry. The success of the Grasshopper has been due in large part to the pioneering spirit and self-sufficiency instilled by Elbert along with the company’s ability to manufacture and market new products. Other products previously developed and produced by MoridgeManufacturing have been:

• 10″ Baldwin Grain Auger

• Automatic Tube Cattle Feeder
• Goose Neck Stock Trailer
• Springtooth Harrows
• Soybean Roasters and
• Poultry Barn Heaters

Today, the approximately 300,000 square foot plant, continuing the tradition of self-sufficiency, has utilized robotic welders since 1984. In addition, Moridge owns two of only 100 robotic press brakes running nationwide, all computer numerically controlled brakes and shears, laser fabricators, a powder paint system and 250 personnel.

Of course Elbert could not have accomplished this without the support of his wife of 65 years, Marvel Hackerott Guyer. Not only did Marvel take care of the household, but she also did bookkeeping and many times kept the factory running while he was on the road selling products.

Each generation has passed on a legacy to the next and I’m pleased to say ‘Thank you’ for recognizing my grandfather’s hard work and contributions.”

Elbert Guyer passed away in Moundridge on December 22, 2003, and was buried in the Mound Township Cemetery near Moundridge.

The Elbert and Marval Guyer gravestone, located in Mound Township Cemetery near Moundridge, Kansas.

Walter Augustus Bodge – 2004 Inductee

Walter Augustus Bodge was born November 23, 1899 on the family farm in Bethany Township, Osborne County, Kansas.  He was the son of William and Anna (Hunker) Bodge.  Walter attended both Portis, Kansas Grade and High Schools.  During World War I he served as a private in Company A, 15th Battalion of the Kansas State Guard, stationed at Portis.   At age 24 Walter married Cecelia Greiner on November 23, 1923,  and the couple settled down to the simple life of a Kansas farm couple.  In the course of things they raised two daughters, Doris and Marilyn.

His tombstone may be simple, but Walter Bodge’s contributions to Kansas farmers is immense. Walter was one of those farmers who, in his spare time – usually in winter – worked on things that could make his life easier. He patented a number of inventions, including one of the first and most popular milo guards on the market (it eventually sold millions); a portable disc sharpener that sold well in the United States and overseas and for which his descendants still hold the American patent; a steel kit for round feed bunks; a chain-a-parts for steel chains; a Sickle Server; and the Golden Rod wire stretcher, still the preferred tool among many farmers not only across the Sunflower State but the entire nation as well.

“The Goldenrod Fence Wire Stretcher-Splicer is truly an example of ingenuity because of its simple design. The product can mend either a loose strand of fence or broken section of fence. When you find a spot of loose barbed wire, place each end of the loose wire in each end on the fence stretcher-splicer and pull the handle together and lock into place to hold tension. Next, use any short piece of wire to splice from one end of the loose wire to the other. Finally, insert fence plier handles in the wire loop between the existing wire and the splice wire and twist until tight. You can then release the handle and remove the stretcher-splicer.” – Cooperative Farming News, April 2012, www.alafarmnews.com.

After a long and fulfilling life Walter Bodge died on February 8, 1975.  He lies buried in the Fairview Cemetery located just southwest of Portis, Kansas.